Key stakeholders in upcoming Finnish gambling reforms are preparing for a meeting later this month with officials drafting a new law, with topics such as marketing restrictions and cooling-off periods on the agenda.
Industry representatives have been invited to a roundtable event on November 28 to share their views with the government working group responsible for legislation that will eventually open Finland’s online gambling market to private companies.
The project was officially launched last month and has until the end of 2025 to complete its work.
Local experts vary in their predictions of when the new market will launch, but even the most pessimistic believe licensing will be live by Summer 2026.
At the November meeting, stakeholders are expected to raise issues such as a mooted Dutch-style cooling-off period that would see grey market operators potentially excluded from licensing for a set period of time.
The concept was floated as part of an earlier working group that considered whether or not the government should push ahead with reforms, and although there is no concrete reason yet to believe it will be included in the final draft, many in the industry are understandably nervous about the possibility.
“The concerns are marketing and cooling off. We are going to have some heavy discussion regarding the details,” said Minna Rapitti, a founding partner with Legal Gaming in Finland, speaking at the Scandinavian Gaming Show in Stockholm on Friday (November 3).
Rapitti will be among those attending the roundtable on the 28th, as will Sverker Skogberg, the head of public affairs for operator Paf, which occupies a unique position as the state-owned operator of the Åland Islands, a Swedish-speaking autonomous region in the sea between Sweden and Finland.
Skogberg noted that, for the first time, the incumbent monopoly operator in Finland, Veikkaus, will not be part of the decision-making process.
“They will be heard just as everyone else is,” he said.
The newly-created Finnish Online Gambling Association will also be present, and its chief executive, Mika Kuismanen, said on Friday that he will urge the government to start creating a new gambling authority now.
“If you start to build up the authority immediately you have 1.5 years of time to build it. It should be done. As an industry … we need to be strong towards politicians and civil servants that they should do this now,” he said.
Jari Vähänen, a gambling consultant and former Veikkaus executive, cautioned that Finland was at the very beginning of the process to create a new regime and “the devil is in the details”.
Vähänen, who will be present at the November meeting with government officials, said: “We haven’t had a discussion about marketing restrictions or gambling deposit limits, or what the taxation rate will be.”
He also predicted that the current unity among gambling businesses about movement to a licensing system will quickly disintegrate once debates on the details start to emerge.
Skogberg called for temperance on advertising, in particular.
“The marketing question is getting hotter and hotter in Finland. My only worry is that if Finland does something too loose, with not enough responsible gambling, they will anyway censor it in two years,” he said.
Skogberg’s comments recalled ad crackdowns in nearby Netherlands and Sweden after explosive market openings in recent years.
On potential cooling-off delays, Ripatti noted that companies are nervous in part because the current regulator, the National Police Board, has become more active in enforcement against the grey market.
“Even though I would still say that the enforcement appetite [in Finland] is still moderate … if you are advertising in Finland you need to have your eyes open and you need to start, if not preparing, at least be keeping an eye on Finland and be doing an assessment regarding your current marketing activities,” she said.
Vähänen also cautioned that although key issues will continue to be debated in public and private in the meantime, the industry will not know the specific details of the new law for another 12-18 months.
In the meantime, Skogberg called for suppliers to lobby the central government on their concerns for the future market.
“Suppliers and providers, I think the best thing they can do is to show up to conferences, especially in Finland. I don’t think [the government] realises that these are really serious companies and they want to know how to prepare.”